Exploring Salt In Jerky

I was pretty despondent after my miserable failure with my own recipe.  I got cocky and flew too close to the sun.  What does that get ya?  Ruined jerky, that’s what!  I mentioned in my previous post that research seemed to indicate that salt content was very important.  While lean ground beef was still on sale I wanted to experiment with a very simple recipe and alter only the salt content.  I measured out carefully four 1 pound batches of meat.  Each got 1/4 tsp of cure, 1 tsp of garlic powder, 1oz water, a different amount of salt.  No flying high here, we are staying well grounded with this recipe.

DSC_0957

Of the previous two recipes, the simpler one had roughly 1/2tsp of salt per pound.  It also had a ton of other ingredients which may have mucked up the results.  I started with a 1tsp of salt version and moved up in increments of a whole teaspoon.  The 4 tsp/lb version might be way too salty, but I would know the upper limit in that case.  I noticed when mixing the 1tsp batch that my gloves came back very clean (left picture), but the 2tsp version (right) started getting rather sticky.  Progress!

I continued mixing up batches going slowly and carefully so as not to miss anything.  I don’t currently time how long I mix up the meat, but a voice activated smart phone timer might have to be in order.  These 4 batches will go in the fridge for an overnight rest just like all my previous versions have.

DSC_0959


The dehydrator load showed the difference again.  The lowest salt batch wouldn’t hold together (left), while the 2tsp (right) and above stayed continuous and made great spirals.

They all got the same trip through the dehydrator.  The results were quite different.  It is hard to see in the image below, but the 1tsp jerky is dry and crumbly like my previous batches.  The 2-4 tsp versions all came out pretty chewy and with a proper texture.  It seems 1-2 tsp per pound of meat is the required threshold.

DSC_0974

I cut up each batch and bagged them with a number, leaving out batch 1.  I gave all my coworkers an opportunity to try them without comment and gathered feedback.  Most considered 4 too salty, though one guy really liked it.  It was kind of a toss up between 2 and 3 as to which one was more favorable.  2 was maybe a touch blander.  The 1tsp of garlic powder was very subtle, most didn’t detect it.

Final Conclusions:

  • You need more than 1tsp of salt per pound of ground beef, 2 is safer
  • 4tsp per pound is excessive for most people
  • more than 1tsp of garlic powder per pound is needed to have it taste like garlic

Home Jerky Recipe Failure

Why buy a spice packet when you can just gin up your own flavors for a lot less?  Failed jerky apparently!  I thought I was going to be cute, and make my own seasoned jerky from now on.  I may still, but I hit a huge setback.  Everything started nice, I looked at a few recipes online and came up with two ideas to try on my own.  A basic traditional style, and a taco seasoning style.

dsc_0948.jpg

I mixed them both and ran into my first difference.  Normally, the meat is really sticky.  Even wearing nitrile gloves it sticks like crazy.  These didn’t seem to leave much of anything on my gloves.

I left them overnight for the flavors to mingle, then fired up the jerky cannon.  Another odd feature, they don’t hold together well at all.  Normally I can get long continuous strands, but these fall apart immediately.

DSC_0949

One thing I remembered after firing up the dehydrator was that I forgot the curing salt on the taco version.  That was going to hurt the shelf life, but no reason to stop.  The final results were garbage.

DSC_0950

Instead of being chewy this stuff was dry and crumbly.  I did some reading and found a few possible explanations that could apply to my batches.

Don’t use acids: I didn’t use any in the traditional recipe, but my taco version had a few tablespoons of hot sauce.  Lots of vinegar in that sauce. That one was worse than the traditional.

Low salt: This is possible with both batches, I didn’t want it to be too salty.  Checking around, salting ground beef can do important things.  Serious Eats has an article on the subject.

My next experiment will be with a simple recipe of just ground beef, salt, and maybe a single seasoning like garlic powder.  I will increase the salt content and see how that goes.  An early indication of stickiness while mixing might help bound the lower end of salt.  Too salty won’t be clear until I have cooked and eaten some.

Continued Jerky Lessons

This is my 4th round of jerky and I feel like I am still learning a lot every time.  My co-worker uses a 3/8″ nozzle, where as my jerky gun came with only a 1/2″ nozzle.  Thankfully the sell these little road cone looking things that you can cut to size.  DSC_0937I switched jerky seasoning brands because I had run out of the original stuff and wanted to try something different.  They recommended mixing their seasoning with water first, then mixing with meat.  This is a great idea, it helps ensure that the seasoning and cure are well mixed and distributed throughout.  I am feeling confident enough to wager 5 pounds of extra lean to make this happen.  In retrospect the seasoning should have been mixed in the big metal bowl before adding meat.  It saves a bowl.

Loading can be tricky.  One clean hand, one dirty.  You ball up a small wad with the dirty hand and load while holding the barrel with the clean hand.  They make a tool that helps tamp it all down.  Which hand holds that?  My new 3D printed hand of course!  I came up with this clip to hold the barrel while my clean hand tamps.  The overnight print came complete with a really good game of filament chicken.  About 2 wraps left before I would have been in trouble.


The mix and extrusion went well.  I used every tray I had and in 5 hours was able to dry a pretty good looking batch of jerky.

I weighed the final product and came up with about 2.5lb.  That is probably at the low end of dry enough, but it shouldn’t go bad in the 4 days it will take for me and everyone around to eat it.  It occurs to me that I could monitor the progress of my jerky simply by taking the initial weight and weights throughout the process.

DSC_0947

Jerky Dehydrator Hack

I have been experimenting with jerky in the oven after a co-worker introduced me to the idea of making jerky from ground beef.  I had no idea such a thing was even possible.  It is easier and can be cheaper than whole muscle jerky.  Plus it isn’t nearly as jaw bruisingly chewy.  I started in my oven, but the long lingering cooking smell is disagreeable with my wonderful wife and the oven doesn’t seem to vent enough to properly dry the meat.  Enter my new Nesco Snackmaster!

20171125_161652

Good ole black Friday deals got me a discount on a damaged box item.  I cleaned and assembled everything and used the dehydrator to dry all the piece parts.  I stuck my grill probe in various places checking for consistency.  It is a surprisingly consistent unit, but there was an issue.  The temp was too low.  You are supposed to dry jerky at 160F, and it stalled at 145.  An hour later, it was still at 145.  I didn’t really feel like sending it back, or finding out the bad way that my jerky wasn’t cooked enough.

The dial has a hard stop (brass piece in lower right picture).  I wondered if it needed adjustment.  I tried tweaking the metal shim that hits the hard stop, and broke it off completely (Sad bent metal in lower left picture).  No sending it back now!  I gave it a slight turn past the previous hard stop and reassembled everything.  Hey presto, 160F without issue.  It super voids the warranty, but now I know I can get one of these things to higher temps if I ever need to.

 


Fast forward to actually mixing up some meat and making a test run.  I had a jerky seasoning sampler pack, and wanted to stick with known spices while I worked on the mechanics of jerky making.  Once I get the basics down I will venture off into recipe development land.  I mixed it all up, put it in my jerky gun and shot 1/2″ round extrusions into the snackmaster.

20171125_154536

Not highly appetizing at this point, but give it some time.  I was dubious of the temperature control still, so I put my probe back in and monitored.  It still didn’t come out to the right temp, so I had to do more adjusting.  No clue if I am being overly controlling, or if something is wong with the built in temperature control.  6 hours later it was looking a bit more like jerky, and I was looking for bed time.

20171126_082235.jpg

My previous batches got stopped before this point.  They weren’t chewy enough, but lasted about a week before mold set in.  I figured they would be ok overnight, and restarted them in the morning.  Not ideal, but it should be safe. After 4 more hours of drying I had other events that were becoming press, so it was time to call it quits.

20171126_113622.jpg

10 Hours total yielded a pretty good looking jerky.  Drier than my previous attempts with a good amount of chewiness.  I will hold a small sample of this in a bag and check it for mold routinely to get an idea of shelf life. The only round nozzle I have is 1/2″ in diameter. I need to get a thinner diameter to help speed this process up. Then again, 10 hours would be easy to do overnight.

More jerky updates to come over the next few weeks. I hope to have a full suite available for Christmas gifts.